In Part 1, we discussed the meaning of the name, ‘Shenmue’, the various examples of the meaning being foreshadowed before it’s reveal, as well as how flowers are often used as a symbol within the series. In Part 2, we will be exploring the other trees besides the titular tree of the series, (as well as nature in general) and how they represent Ryo’s character development and growth across the two games.
NOTE: This post will contain plot SPOILERS for both games in the series, so it is highly recommended you only read if you have completed both games. It also assumes you have basic knowledge of the two games and the series in general.
So, trees in Shenmue then. Given what we have learned about the meaning behind the name of the series, it only makes sense there would be other trees besides the all-important titular one outside Shenhua’s house. And we see this almost immediately in the very opening moments of Shenmue I – I refer to of course, the cherry tree outside the Hazuki Dojo; where the Dragon Mirror is buried (before Lan Di takes it, of course).
Now, I’m not sure if there is meant to be any deeper meaning to the Dragon Mirror being hidden under a tree, and the Phoenix Mirror being hidden behind a far more labyrinthine series of secret doors and passageways that lead to the Hazuki Dojo’s basement – but the tree’s narrative importance itself cannot be denied. If the player focuses on the tree the first time they approach the Dojo when first gaining control of Ryo, it triggers a flashback of him as a young boy being trained by his father – at a time the cherry blossoms have bloomed and are falling serenely to the ground. Iwao tells him to ‘find his centre of balance’ – an early indicator of something that becomes a recurring theme throughout the series – Ryo being encouraged to concentrate first instead of acting rashly or wasting his energy. While something merely hinted at here in the first game, this theme becomes far more prevalent in the second game, which we will come to…